Colonoscopy – An ugly word, with fearful connotations.
Yesterday I went for my overdue colonoscopy appointment. When I say overdue, I mean that it’s been three and a half years since my last one, and consequently, that was my first one.
After having my first one and enduring the awful, but not most awful of all the preps, I was lectured then by the gastroenterologist because I didn’t take the prep she instructed me to take, and my colon wasn’t 100% clear. Although, she had told me it was clear enough to see, and that I was fine. I was elated to hear the good news. But she also informed me that because I have Crohn’s disease, I should be having an annual colonoscopy.
I pleaded my case to her that my Crohn’s is holistically under control, I eat a healthy diet, and being that I had a clean bill of health from her, could she please let me do it every three years. Thankfully I won my plea, and she conceded.
So last fall, I was to have my three-year scope, but life was happening for me in full force, one crisis led to another, and the winter had passed in 2015. My doctor’s referral for this scope was to end by May, so I booked the appointment, and yesterday was the day.
Now, let me preface this by saying, the procedure itself is really no big deal, honestly! I mean, I go to this lovely digestive clinic where everyone is treated so well by lovely nurses, they put you in what looks like a small hospital ward, each with his own private curtain and gurney, and eventually you are wheeled into the small operating room, asked to verify some questions we previously filled out on the forms, and wham, we’re put under with anaesthetic. Just the way I like it!
But heaven help us all, that preparation the day before to cleanse the colon is the most vile, disgusting, nauseating, ass-burning day to endure. (I probably could have used more adjectives here!)
Getting back to the prep, after my first colonoscopy, I was reprimanded for taking something other than what was prescribed. The doctor didn’t feel that the prep I used (Citromag), was effective enough to empty the colon. I had researched something easier than what she had prescribed to ingest. All the preps are disgusting enough as is, and I am the sort of person who gags from a teaspoon of cough medicine. I also have a very slow digestive transit time, thus I get full very quickly, food and liquids hang around my upper stomach much longer than the average person’s.
The difference between taking Citromag and the many other formulas, is that you only have to drink two – 300 ml. bottles of gross stuff, chased down intermittently with 64 ounces of water throughout the day. This is a cakewalk compared to drinking 4 LITRES of other gross stuff mixed in with the water!
Now I cannot even conceive the thought of drinking 16 GLASSES of liquid in a few hours span, even if it were my favourite drink, let alone with the vile taste and consistency. So, once again, I drank the Citromag and gagged from the briney/sugary mixture of fake lemonade, but held it down.
It took almost 5 HOURS until anything started to happen, other than the huge hard feeling and distention of my stomach, and nausea. Even after the rumbling urges came, they weren’t of much substance other than many Niagara Falls- like liquid showers. I was bloated, tired, starving — I was sure this prep was not going to be effective. I wasn’t wrong!
After I had the procedure done, and the doctor called me in for consult, I was informed that I wasn’t properly cleaned out, and I had to admit my crime of not taking her prescribed method of choice. The doctor then added that from the parts she could see through, she had found, removed, and sent for biopsy, two polyps. Just as I was processing the fears that came attached to this news, she then added that I was to come back in 2 MONTHS to do it all over again to be sure there was nothing else she missed. I immediately froze in fear. I knew my charade of switching preps was no longer effective for my lazy colon, and I didn’t have three years to put it on the back burner.
I began to panic with worry about my biopsy results, and what on earth was I going to have to drink, worse than what I had already ingested.
I returned home around noon and made myself a piece of toast and an egg. Surprisingly, after 36 hours without food and starving, I no longer felt hungry. My husband went back to work and I got on the computer to catch up with emails and intentions of doing revisions on my next book. But the looming fear within me about having another colonoscopy wouldn’t allow me to concentrate on anything other than searching for a potion that I could possibly tolerate for ROUND 2.
I checked my emails then went directly to Google. I typed in numerous search words with the names of each prep available here in Canada and the U.S. And then I went on forums to read about other people’s experiences with different potions, and read about their stories and success rates. I was obsessed and engulfed in the stories and blogs I read. There were moments I laughed so hard at some descriptions, and I could barely breathe as I pictured them.
Many offered tips and tricks about how to get through the dreaded prep process. The most repetitive information I read was to stay close to the loo, (I know that) have baby wipes handy to ease the soreness down below from the acidic explosions, and to use baby zinc cream to comfort and protect the delicate area below from the sting. But when I read about some various methods used to ingest the vile and copious amounts of liquid, I couldn’t stop laughing.
One girl advised to cover your nose with a Bounce dryer sheet as you gulped, to avoid the smell, which enhances the flavor. Many advised to drink from a straw and to make sure it’s placed at the back of the tongue to avoid the front palate where most of the taste buds are located. Others had their own rendition of avoiding to taste, admitting there was no way to fully mask it. But the most hysterical description I read was from a boy who was trying to describe what his prep tasted like. He said, “Imagine a hockey team’s socks soaking in a tub overnight, and then drinking the water.” I gagged at reading it, as well as doubled over in laughter. Another said that he sat on the throne so long that his foot fell asleep and he didn’t know it until he got up and his foot turned over and he sprained his ankle.
I processed so much information, that before I knew it, I had been sitting at the computer for 6 HOURS! It was 8PM and I had yet to eat dinner. My work day had vanished while it was spent investigating ways I could get through the next scope.
It really is a procedure feared by the masses. The actual procedure is nothing, like I mentioned, but that prep day is the horrific part that keeps people from having the procedure done.
Yes I’m nerved out about doing a repeat and then having scopes annually after, but I have to do it. These polyps they find are a precursor to colon cancer. And after losing a grandfather to colon cancer, an aunt to pancreatic cancer, a cousin to colon cancer (from Crohn’s disease), and another aunt on her way now to the next world from stomach cancer, I have no choice.
I know I had a hard enough time taking the Citromag and litres of fresh water. I don’t know how I’ll be able to chug 4 LITRES of mixed prep with my gag reflex, but I know I have to start summoning up my courage NOW.
Addendum: This article was written in 2015. Since the writing of this article I have endured another few colonoscopies. I’m happy to report that my new choice of weapon that works is Miralax, a clear crystal, tasteless, odorless powder I mix in with gatorade, totally palatable and effective.
Do you have any helpful tips or experience you’d like to share?